Boyd Exell from Australia has successfully defended his FEI World Cup™ Driving title in a thrilling finish in Leipzig (GER) to become only the second driver to score a hat-trick of World Cup victories. The popular Australian sped to victory in front of an enthusiastic and ecstatic crowd that packed the Leipzig Messe to capacity. Hungary’s Jozsef Dobrovitz drove two brilliant rounds with his team of Lipizzaner horses to finish second, ahead of IJsbrand Chardon from the Netherlands.
HAPPY TO BE FIRST
Jozsef Dobrovitz was happy to go first in the Final round. In Budapest he had won the warm-up competition but made mistakes in the Final round, so he felt the starting grid Leipzig would favour him. His only goal in the first round was to equal Boyd’s time on the first night and to stay clear as well. Dobrovitz put in an amazing performance to meet both his goals and pile the pressure on his opponents.
Second starter IJsbrand Chardon was determined to make up for his mistake on the first night, but his leader horses started pushing against each other in the warm-up arena and there was not enough time left for IJsbrand to fix it. The result was three knockdowns on course, but Chardon kept on driving at such high speed that he finished in a record time of 113.89 seconds, to slot into second behind Dobrovitz. Chardon had no expectations of making it to the Winning Round but Georg von Stein (GER), Werner Ulrich (SUI), Koos de Ronde (NED) and Tomas Eriksson (SWE) all made mistakes, which kept Chardon in second place. After Exell had conquered the course in a fast time despite one knockdown, it was clear that the colourful trio was going to battle it out in the Winning Round.
Chardon’s horses went much better in the Winning Round and the four-time World Champion drove his team of Lipizzaner horses, which are formerly owned by Jozsef Dobrovitz, at full speed. But he was unable to make up for his mistakes in the first round and finished third in the overall standings.
Dobrovitz had the full support of the enthusiastic spectators in the sold out Leipziger Halle and felt he could fly. He beat his own time by three seconds and finished with another clear round. Dobrovitz and his team were extremely happy with their performance and he thanked his horses by giving them all four a big kiss after leaving the ring. This was much appreciated by the spectators who were able to follow this wonderful scene on the big screens inside the arena.
After the first night, Boyd Exell decided to change the bit of his leader horse Spitfire in order to speed his team up a bit. Boyd did not feel any pressure from Dobrovitz, as he knew the times were beatable. He was a little worried though that he wouldn’t be able to hold the horse in a lighter bit. The new set-up worked however and Boyd felt the team was very light in his hands, which resulted in very fast and easy looking rounds.
Boyd’s leaders went a bit too fast in the Winning Round, causing a ball to fall, but it didn’t endanger his lead as Boyd’s speed was just right. Boyd had received some good advice from Tomas Eriksson on his way in for the Winning Round, which made him decide not to drive at full speed.
Tomas Eriksson went for a top-three placing but made a mistake himself coming out of obstacle nine on the course, designed by World Championship course designer Dr Wolfgang Asendorf. Eriksson’s leader horses were not in the good form they were in on the first night, dropping the Stockholm World Cup winner to fourth. Budapest winner Werner Ulrich was also determined to make it a top three finish, but took a risk at the wrong moment and ended up fifth. Koos de Ronde had an uncharacterstic round with three knockdowns. Koos’ leader horses, which are normally very fast, didn’t seem to want to go forward, leaving Koos down in seventh in the Leipzig Final.
CHANGE OF PLANS
Wild card driver Georg von Stein had only heard last Thursday that he could compete after the initial wild card driver Christian Plücker had to withdraw because of two unfit horses. Von Stein started training his outdoor team of horses several weeks ago and had some second thoughts after the first night. Despite some mistakes that he blamed himself for, he was very pleased with his horses and will now change his outdoor schedule in order to be able to qualify for next season’s FEI World Cup™ Driving! Von Stein came sixth in the overall standings in Leipzig.
Boyd Exell: “The only pressure I had was not to hit obstacle two and 10. I knew the times of Dobrovitz and Chardon were beatable and I thought to myself ‘let’s go!’ in the Winning Round.
Jozsef Dobrovitz: “I have lent my second black horse to my son, who is competing in his first international driving competition with a horse team this weekend. He would normally also have driven with my wheelers, so we had a lot of discussion to decide who was going to drive which horses! I am very happy with my horses and my own performance, everything came together at the right time.”
IJsbrand Chardon: “I had a good feeling and was very motivated but once by leader horses started pushing I could not do anything. I decided to keep on driving and I could only pray that I would make it to the Winning Round, because normally you know you have no chance with this many mistakes. The Winning Round went much better. Initially I went for the first place, but after the first round I was very pleases with my third position!”
RESULTS (FEI World Cup™ Driving Final Leipzig)
1. Boyd Exell (AUS) 242,12
2. Jozsef Dobrovitz (HUN) 247,52
3. IJsbrand Chardon (NED) 254,88
4. Tomas Eriksson (SWE) 133,10
5. Werner Ulrich (SUI) 139,07
6. Georg von Stein (GER) 140,76
7. Koos de Ronde (NED) 151,32
Listen to the stars from today’s FEI World Cup™ Final Driving with audio links following today’s competition:
Jozsef Dobrovitz – Hungarian with English Translation
Ian Williams, FEI World Cup Driving Director